Tuesday, July 12, 2011

directions (not north, south, east, and west)

Think of the word directions. What's the first thing that comes to your mind? Some might think of cardinal directions (though not so much anymore, thanks to GPS). But I'd say the second most common, if not most common, initial thought would be: a set of steps to follow in order to accomplish something. The dictionary defines directions as: instruction or guidance for making, using, etc.: directions for baking a cake.

As a teacher, I am all too used to giving students directions. One of the modern theories on that is that teachers should give students less directions--this is an active belief of experiential learning (that is, learning by experience rather than through text or demonstration). Well, let me tell you, although I am a fan of experiential learning, I am also a huge fan of directions.


Let's think about what the intent is behind a set of directions. As a teacher, I give my students directions to ensure their success. As an "expert in the field" (still getting used to that...) I have studied in depth as to how students learn best, and what will ensure the transfer of meaningful knowledge. I've spent the last three years learning all about the mind and how it works, as well as different ways one can employ when teaching another person. I've proved myself time and time again by writing lesson plans and carrying them out in a classroom setting. I give my students directions so that they will both know what I expect of them and be able to rise to meet and exceed the standards I've set for them. This is all done in their best interest, to make the classes and lessons most meaningful to them.

And, I must say, on average all of my students have done very well with following directions.

Which leads me to my question: do adults just forget that they too should follow directions?

Let me explain. My "day-job" (ha ha) involves processing applications for an online tutoring company. One part of the work includes a "free response" from a tutor--that is, people applying to be tutors are directed to write one to five personalized paragraphs about their qualifications and previous experiences teaching and/or tutoring. After explaining what exactly we want, we then direct tutors to not submit their current resume. We tell them that applications containing a resume will be returned to them for resubmission.

In order to become a tutor, you must be at least 18 years of age, and it is generally assumed that you can read (after all, this is all done online, via computer, where you need to read letters and words to even stumble upon our webpage). So please please please someone explain to me WHY I still receive applications that are simply a resume? Are the tutors just that masochistic that they want to set themselves up for failure that far in advance?

Or is it simply that they didn't take time to read the directions? Just as any good teacher would, we put the directions on our website to ensure our future tutors success. So, why is it then that so few of them take time to read the directions and follow them? It seems to me (and this is just a hunch) that tutors would be saving both us (the content reviewers) and them (the tutors) a lot of time and hassle if they just followed the directions in the first place.

And by seeing this so often, every day of the week, it makes me wonder. Is society just getting that much dumber? Or do people just generally have that much of a lack of regard for directions?

Or, do they simply not understand why directions are placed there?

When I receive a set of directions, providing they make sense and seem meaningful, I am thrilled. To me, directions mean that someone out there cared enough for my well-being that they went ahead and told me what was expected of me so that I could be successful in completing a task.

Think about it. If you were baking a cake, you wouldn't just set the sugar, flour, eggs, milk, and other stuff in a pan and pop it in the oven, right? No, you would follow the directions to ensure that the cake tasted really yummy! So too should you follow directions given in other areas of life--they are there to ensure success.

Trust me, I'm a teacher.

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